It’s not really part of a Marine’s DNA to open up about their feelings or even ask for help, but a new program in Fairfax, VA is sort of forcing military vets to do just that — so they can get better and avoid jail time.
The Veterans Treatment Court program– or “truth court” — is a way to help veterans who land in court stop a “downward spiral that can lead to jail or even suicide.”
It’s sort of like going to confessional, some vets report. The courts are designed to keep nonviolent offenders out of jail and give them the help they need — the Washington Post reports.
There are about 200 similar programs across the country and “most of the vets who graduate from them are thriving,” according to the Post article.
One Marine vet, who didn’t want to be identified, told the Post he was reluctant to do the program but was facing serious jail time. He was never in trouble with the law before his time in the military, but is now facing his third DUI.
Penney S. Azcarate, a military vet and Fairfax County Circuit Court judge, says the participating veterans have to plead guilty and sign on to an intense program of “classes, community service, treatment, therapy and frequent court visits.” Other veterans are assigned to them, to act as volunteer mentors.
The ones who’ve already lost so many years to an addiction or illness stemming from their military service are getting a second chance at life — thanks to this program.
“I lost about 20 years. But now I have the chance to get some of that back. I got back in touch with my son. Found out I’ve got grandkids,” said Steven Daniel, a 57- year-old former paratrooper.
Daniel recently celebrated being one of the program’s first two graduates. Friday, the courtroom was packed for his final confessional.
Retired Army Sgt. Marshall Williams was at the graduation to give an address. The senior enlisted adviser to the secretary of defense is always encouraging vets to seek treatment. For years, he thought his behavior was normal, but was recently told by his doctor, after undergoing tests, that he had PTSD.
There’s nothing wrong with reaching out and getting help. Those who try to “muscle through it alone” are failing — as the suicide rates among vets show.
“This program is a merciful one,” said Judge Michael J. Lindner. “It’s what the men and women who sacrificed everything for every one of us deserve.”
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